Big Idea: How do we relate to the world? Don’t be judgmental. Don’t be undiscriminating. Don’t give up because of your confidence in God.
I don’t know about you, but I find it really tricky to know how to navigate the world sometimes.
We no longer live in a world in which Christianity is favored. That’s not all bad. Christianity often thrives when it’s in the minority position within culture. We have an opportunity. Because people don’t know much about Jesus anymore, we have the privilege of showing and telling the good news of Jesus. I love living in Liberty Village for this reason. You and I are perfectly situated to make a real difference in the world.
But it gets complicated.
- How do we live as a minority in a culture where the issues keep getting more complicated?
- How do we relate to people who believe very different things than us?
- How do we relate to people who are hostile to us?
- Maybe this is the hardest question of all: How do we relate to others who call themselves Christians and embarrass the name of Jesus?
In short, how do we relate to the wider world as Christians in a way that’s honoring to Jesus and also compelling to the world around us?
That’s what Jesus is going to help us with this week.
In this passage, Jesus tells us how to live as his followers in the world. This couldn’t be more relevant for us as a church in Liberty Village. How do we relate to the wider world? Jesus gives us three commands. How do we relate to the world? Don’t be judgmental. Don’t be undiscriminating. Don’t give up.
Don’t Be Judgmental
It was disturbing. People were sitting quietly on the subway. Some were reading newspapers. Some were lost in thought.
But all of that changed when a man and his children entered the subway car. It was chaos. The man sat down oblivious while his kids yelled, threw things, and even grabbed other people’s papers.
Obviously, people got irritated. One guy couldn’t believe that the guy would allow his children to run around like that and not even care. He turned to the guy and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”
Here’s what happened:
The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.” (The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People)
It’s a dangerous thing to judge without all the information. And that’s the point that Jesus makes in verses 1-5. In fact, verse 1 may be one of the most popular things that Jesus ever said. “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
What does Jesus mean here? He can’t mean that don’t make judgments about what’s right and wrong in this world, and he can’t mean that we don’t size up other people. How do we know this? Because of what Jesus is going to say in just a few verses. We have to evaluate people. We do this all the time. If you’re hiring a babysitter, you have to judge whether or not the person you’re hiring is a safe person. If you’re hiring an employee, you need to judge their suitability. If you’re looking for a spouse, you’d better make some judgments before you go too far! We should make judgments about injustice and oppression. These kinds of judgments are not what Jesus is talking about.
No, what Jesus means here isn’t about judging rightly. It’s about being judgmental, hyper-critical, and condemnatory. Don’t go around thinking that you’re better than everybody else! There are few things less appealing than a follower of Jesus who thinks that he or she is better than anyone else. It’s wrong, and Jesus forbids it here. Don’t be condescending in your relationships.
Jesus gives us two reasons why we shouldn’t judge others.
First: God will judge us by the way we judge others. “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2). Do you want God to treat you graciously? Then treat others graciously! Do you want God to treat you harshly? Then treat others harshly. James 2:13 says, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.”
But there’s another reason why we shouldn’t judge others. It’s because we’re not in a position to judge because we’ve got our own problems.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)
Jesus knows what we’re like. It’s easy to be judgmental about the faults of others while being completely blind to our own faults. There’s not a person in this room who would enjoy being scrutinized for faults. Look at any of our lives hard enough, and you’ll find plenty of things that are wrong. We’re messes! Why would we be judgmental towards others when we have our hands full with ourselves?
We need the opposite of judgmentalism. We need humility. What if Christians weren’t known for being self-righteous, but were known for being humble and honest about their own faults? In the book unChristian on why people walk away from Christianity, one man says:
You lost me too when I was about fifteen or sixteen. I wanted no part of an institution filled with hypocrites who “talked the talk” without “walking the walk.”
…Young people are looking for answers and for authenticity. When they see a church or Christians seemingly more concerned with appearances than with truth … is it any surprise that they flee? … Young people have a sensitive nose for phonies and for hypocrisy. And when they smell them, they run the other way.
The message of Christianity is not that Christians have it together. The message of Christianity is that Jesus is gracious to sinners and offers grace and forgiveness to all of us. As one pastor puts it, the message of Christianity is three things:
First, “I’m a complete idiot.”
Second, “My future is incredibly bright.”
Third, “Anyone can get in on this.”
When that is our message, there’s no room for us to be arrogant or judgmental. When we understand the grace that Jesus has given us, how could we look down on anyone else?
Be less judgmental. Be more honest about your own faults. Drop the mask. How do we relate to the world? Don’t be judgmental to others.
But then Jesus helps us avoid another error.
Don’t Be Undiscriminating
It’s interesting to read verse 6, especially after Jesus has just finished telling us not to be judgmental.
Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (Matthew 7:6)
On one hand, don’t be judgmental and hyper-critical. On the other hand, don’t be undiscriminating. You need discernment. This is how we know that Jesus’ command to not judge is about being judgmental, because in this verse Jesus tells us to judge. We need wisdom.
Here’s what I think Jesus is telling us. It’s so important for how we relate to the world around us.
- On one hand, don’t be hypercritical of others. Show others grace, just as God has shown you grace.
- On the other hand, don’t give the gospel to those who don’t want it.
“Dogs” and “pigs” refer not to unbelievers, but to those who are adamantly opposed to the gospel. Dogs weren’t cuddly things back then. They were scavengers who roamed the streets. Jesus is being harsh. There are some people who are like that. They’re dangerous, savage, and unclean.
When Jesus spoke these words, pearls were even more valuable than diamonds. They were the epitome of luxury. Jesus tells us to be careful about taking the most valuable thing we have — the gospel — and offering it to people who are hostile to it. We need to extend grace to people, but that doesn’t mean we’re undiscerning when we encounter different kinds of people.
It’s like when we go camping. This year when we went camping they went around and left notes if your campsite wasn’t bear proof. We’ve always put our cooler in the back of our hatchback, and it’s always worked well. This year, though, they told us not to do that. They didn’t want the cooler visible to bears at night. Why? Bears have been known to rip all kinds of things apart to get at food. You want to keep all food out of sight from these scavengers.
Sometimes we need to recognize someone as dangerous and to refuse to deal with them any longer. There’s a difference between someone who’s curious and someone who’s hostile. Spend your time with the curious; avoid the hostile. It takes wisdom to know the difference.
D.A. Carson tells the story of a friend at McGill University named David Ward. He was a great evangelist. One guy came to him and said that he wanted to learn all about world religions and have an interesting discussion. David said, “Sorry, I don’t have time for you.”
“Pardon me?” the guy said.
‘Look,’ Dave replied, ‘I’ll loan you some books on world religions; I can show you how I understand Christianity to fit into all this, and why I think biblical Christianity is true—but you’re just playing around. You’re a dilettante. You don’t really care about these things; you’re just goofing off. I’m a graduate student myself, and I don’t have time—I do not have the hours at my disposal to engage in endless discussions with people who are just playing around.’
He turned to the second student: ‘Why did you come?’
‘I come from a home that you people call liberal,’ he said. ‘We go to the United Church and we don’t believe in things like the literal resurrection of Jesus—I mean, give me a break. The deity of Christ, that’s a bit much. But my home is a good home. My parents love my sister and me, we are a really close family, we worship God, we do good in the community. What do you think you’ve got that we don’t have?’
For what seemed like two or three minutes, Dave looked at him.
Then he said, ‘Watch me.’
As it happened, this student’s name was also Dave. This Dave said, ‘I beg your pardon?’
Dave Ward repeated what he had just said, and then expanded: ‘Watch me. I’ve got an extra bed; move in with me, be my guest—I’ll pay for the food. You go to your classes, do whatever you have to do, but watch me. You watch me when I get up, when I interact with people, what I say, what moves me, what I live for, what I want in life. You watch me for the rest of the semester, and then you tell me at the end of it whether or not there’s a difference.’
Now, I don’t always know who to invest in, and maybe you don’t either. But we can develop this skill. Prayer helps too. Don’t be judgmental. But don’t be undiscerning. Look carefully around you, and invest heavily in people who are spiritually receptive rather than those who are openly hostile to the gospel.
But there’s one more thing to notice. How do we relate to the world? Don’t be judgmental. Don’t be undiscriminating. And then one more thing.
Don’t Give Up
Look, sharing the gospel can be hard. We’ll seem like we’re nuts to people. We’ll sometimes face rejection. We won’t have all the answers. It’s rewarding and important, but let’s not fool ourselves. It’s hard. It can be discouraging.
Which I think is why Jesus gives us these amazing promises in verses 7 to 11:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Jesus opens the bank vault of heaven for us in this passage. Jesus is inviting us to a relationship with our Father in which we understand that he is more willing to bless us than we are to receive our blessing.
Want to live the kind of life that Jesus describes in this sermon? Have you asked God for that? Do you want to be used by God like never before so that you make a difference in the lives of others? Pray about it. Jesus emphasizes: God will respond! How would our lives look different if we really understood this?
Put this all together. Jesus invites us to understand how to live in a world in which we are the minority. How do we do this? Don’t be judgmental. Don’t be undiscriminating. Don’t give up because of your confidence in God.
When we live this way, we’ll come closer in our relationships to what Jesus says in verse 12: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” This is really the summary of how Jesus wants us to relate to others in a world in which we’re the minority. Don’t be judgmental. Don’t be undiscerning. Don’t give up. Treat them with respect. Expect God to work through you.
People will know that we love them. We’ll be gracious to people with faults. We’ll be wise with those who hostile. We’ll be dependent on God in prayer. Who wouldn’t want to live like this?